Tag Archives: leadership

PMP:093 Why are You Leading? 4 Questions for Refocusing on Your Destination

When I was in college I climbed my first mountain which was an active volcano near Guatemala City.

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We loaded a bus the night before and arrived hours before sunrise to begin our hike in the dark. As we made it up the mountain, the pale colors of morning began to greet us. With the altitude change came the hard work. Each one of us was catching our breath while plodding toward our destination.

The team leader for this climb had pulled all of us together before it began. He explained the route, described the climbing conditions, and gave each of us the opportunity to back out if the climb sounded too strenuous.

As we reached the last stretch toward the peak, the ground turned to rocky ash. Each step we would take forward would require the use of hands and knees. Soon we stopped talking as each person focused on the next step. Continue reading

PMP:082 How Can You Accomplish a Mission?

This past weekend, NASA broadcasted the final transmission of the spacecraft, Cassini, as it plunged into the atmosphere of the planet Saturn that it had orbited and monitored for the past 13 years.

Photo by Kyle Mortara – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License https://www.flickr.com/photos/8068336@N02

Cassini’s mission actually began in 1997. It took six years for it to reach Saturn, an its exploratory orbiting mission began. The spacecraft was originally slated to complete a 3-year mission of orbiting, but the technology proved to be so reliable that it remained working far beyond original plans. From 900 million miles away, this spacecraft took over 400,000 photos as well as transmitted data back to Earth about Saturn’s moons, rings, and atmosphere. The end of Cassini is also another hallmark moment for what amazing feats can be accomplished through human engineering, science, technology, and teamwork. Continue reading

PMP:081 Leadership, Courage and Caution Lights for Principals

This past week I hosted a webinar for principals as a part of a book study over Principal Matters: The Motivation, Action, Courage and Teamwork Needed for School Leaders.

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In 2012, after being named Oklahoma’s Assistant Principal of the Year, I was asked to share ideas with new or aspiring leaders in graduate classes, workshops and conferences. And I was being asked a lot of the same questions about the pressures, challenges, and strategies involved in being a school administrator. So, I decided to start blogging about those issues. Eventually these same ideas became topics for my first book. Continue reading

PMP:080 A Reality Check for New or Aspiring Principals—10 Takeaways for the Road Ahead

The other night I was invited to visit a university classroom with sixteen educators who are working on graduate degrees in educational leadership.

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I listened to each of them present vision and mission statements related to their work with students. It was obvious they had a strong understanding of the road ahead–they understood the “why” of school leadership. I was encouraged and optimistic thinking about the future of our schools in the hands of these potential leaders.

At the end of the evening, I was asked to say a few words to the students. I wanted to give them both a reality check as well as some encouraging reminders. So, I broke the conversation into two parts. Continue reading

PMP:067 Wrapping Up Your School Year—Planning for Summer Break

Occasionally my wife will remind me when it’s been awhile since I’ve cleaned out my closet.

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So I’ll take time to sort out what I don’t need anymore. I can easily fill a couple of trash bags with items to donate to the local Goodwill store.

Summer break is a great time to “clean the closets” of our schools. I’m not talking about literal closets (which can also be helpful), but I’m talking about issues, priorities, goals, and conversations that have been neglected as you have been finishing a school year.

We just finished another school year at my high school. We wrapped up curriculum standards, graduated seniors and hired new teachers for next year. Many people ask me what I do with my summer break. The short answer is: I prepare for next school year. I often tell others that leading a school is like landing a cruise ship. When you finish one tour, you spend the break restocking for the next launch. Continue reading

PMP:029 How Can I Have a Bigger Leadership Role as an Assistant?

Today’s podcast episode is the first in a series responding to listener and reader questions.
One assistant principal wrote me to ask, “How can I have a bigger leadership role as an assistant?”

This week I wanted to share the response with Principal Matters listeners. If you have other questions you’d like responses to about school leadership, leave comments below. Thanks for doing what matters! Continue reading

Going For Gold: An Essential Ingredient

Our high school football team is headed for the state championship game this coming weekend. (You can see their championship game promo here.)
Two years ago when these senior players were sophomores, their team won no games. It was a painful experience for everyone.

But the coaches and players rallied around a new vision, and now they are reaping the harvest of their hard work. Continue reading

3 Leadership Takeaways From A Relay Team

Last year I was attending a high school track meet when our school’s 4 x 400-meter-relay team faced a rival team with a runner known as one of the fastest boys in the state.
Our four-man-team actually held the lead until the final leg when the well-known opponent began to burn up the track catching our leader.

Everyone expected him to do what he always did: blow right past him to win.

When he caught the young man from our team, however, suddenly the two became locked in stride.

For the next quarter of the track, they were synchronized in a beautiful, stunning pace of exact motion, posture, and speed. Continue reading

Interview with Mark Mambretti

The following is a Q & A between Mark Mambretti and me.


Mark Mambretti, New York State Middle School Principal of the Year

Mark Mambretti is principal of East Aurora Middle School, located just outside of Buffalo, New York; a 5-8 school of 600 students and 100 faculty/staff. This year, he was named the New York State Middle School Principal of the Year.

My goal in posting interviews with successful leaders like Mark is to inspire us to reflect on how our own choices, goals, and actions can affect our lives, our leadership, and our teams.

I must also give credit to John Lee Dumas whose great podcast interview questions I have modified for the Q & A’s I have with my guests. Continue reading

Interview with James Holifield

The following is a Q & A exchange between James Holifield and me.


James Holifield, Indiana Middle School Principal of the Year

James “Jim” Holifield is the principal at New Prairie Middle School in New Carlisle, Indiana. As the Indiana Middle School Principal of the Year, he represented his state this year at the NASSP Middle School Principals of the Year awards ceremony in Washington D.C. I am very excited he agreed to share his insights on school leadership. Continue reading